Since Hollywood will sprain a shoulder patting itself on the back tonight, I thought we might have some fun with a topic that briefly appeared at The Corner this week: what were Hollywood’s worst bombs? I’m not talking about American International or Russ Meyer grade-Z flicks that only made it to drive-in screens or direct to video. I’m talking major theatrical releases with some kind of recognizable cast, movies that people thought would make a profit — and maybe did. Even if the flick did boffo box office, it could still be a stinker — and belong on this list.
I’ll suggest a few to start, and later today will try to fashion a poll out of the most popular responses. By tomorrow’s Ed Morrissey Show, we’ll have the top five HA! Award winners, the most laughably bad products of Hollywood.
- Showgirls – Some movies are so bad, they’re entertaining. This was so bad, it practically re-invented Smell-O-Vision. Bad acting, bad dialogue, and the cheesy Las Vegas backdrop combine into one of the most embarrassing major releases ever. Elizabeth Berkley even makes sex laughable in a pool scene that manages to be the worst in a film full of bad scenes.
- Ishtar – The Citizen Kane of big-budget, A-list vehicular homicides. Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty try combining bad singing and songwriting with an incoherent plot about international espionage and wind up with the original Epic Fail.
- Chained Heat – Probably barely qualifies under the rules, but it did have a recognizable B-, C-, and D-list cast that included Linda Blair, John Vernon, Sybil Danning, and Stella Stevens. An entry in the women-behind-bars sexploitation flicks, this one manages to be worst than the rest because of the money that went into it — and never got seen on film. Even the editing is bad, and the music is atrocious.
- Battlefield Earth – The great unintentional comedy of the 1990s left everyone wondering: what were they thinking? John Travolta made Snidely Whiplash look as subtle as Robert DeNiro in comparison to his scenery-chewing. Combined with a senseless script in which humans have reverted to ape-like grunts but still manage to fly 1000-year-old Harrier jets that apparently needed no maintenance for that millenium, the cinematography that shot most of the film at a 30-degree angle, the Star Wars-wipes between scenes, and ridiculous costumes, it’s pre-made for a revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
- The Smokers – Little seen in its release, and for good reason. Four girls at a private school form a clique of rich, cigarette-smoking pseudo-rapists who wind up getting burned (literally) in the end. Thora Birch, Keri Lynn Pratt, and Dominique Swain managed to still have a career after this.
- Volcano – Hey, I think the notion of an eruption at the La Brea Tar Pits might have had at least some potential for fun, but it turns out to be just the pits. Tommy Lee Jones debases himself, as does Don Cheadle and Gaby Hoffman, while Anne Heche is just bad. The worst, though, are the supporting cast, especially the racial conflict between two white officers and a black man looking to save his neighborhood. Halfway through, you’re rooting for the lava.
- Say Yes – The Admiral Emeritus insisted on seeing this because it starred Jonathan Winters. Winters dies in the first ten minutes of the movie, and all we get after that is Art Hindle looking to marry anyone to qualify for his inheritance. The Bachelor managed to essentially remake this with Chris O’Donnell about fifteen years later while improving it marginally. I still haven’t quite forgiven the old man for that one.
- The Legend of Billie Jean – I get into arguments over this one with anyone who was a teenager in the 1980s. It’s awful; bad class-warfare script, bad acting, ridiculous and contrived conflict and events, and a Joan of Arc allusion that comes out of nowhere.
- Heaven’s Gate – Before Ishtar, considered the sine qua non of box-office disasters. Did anyone manage to remain awake for the entire Michael Cimino epic failure? Had to be re-edited and re-released in a rare rescue attempt. Only burning every last copy would have helped.
What are your favorite stinkers?
Update: A couple of additions from the comments:
- Waterworld – A waste of Jeanne Tripplehorn and Dennis Hopper, although Hopper is almost as bad in this as Kevin Costner. It’s another post-apocalyptic piece of nonsense, although this one is worse than most. How do the Smokers run their airplane, ship (the Exxon Valdez, natch) and the jetskis on crude oil? How did the entire world flood for apparently hundreds of years but people can still grow plants on floating atolls? How did people build ships if the world below is so far down that only Costner (with his gills) can get to it? How did Costner convince a studio to spent $170 million on this goofy adventure?
- Date Movie – I tend to give any of the spoof genre a pass, but the First Mate insists on including this entry. It’s so bad, it doesn’t have a single genuine laugh in it. Question: why are the latest variety of spoof movies so completely execrable?
- Anger Management – I almost walked out on this movie, but didn’t because I was with friends. Afterward, they told me they wanted to walk out on it too, but didn’t want to leave me alone in the theater. A complete waste of Marisa Tomei, who gets to do next to nothing while Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson yell at each other and beat up Buddhists.
- Shanghai Surprise – Madonna, with momentary hubby Sean Penn. ‘Nuff said.
- Wild Wild West – Will Smith and Kevin Kline team up with Kevin Branagh to remake a TV classic, and manage to ruin just about everything that was good about the original. Another what-were-they-thinking moment from Hollywood.
Also, maybe we should have a separate poll for worst SNL-skit movies. I’m seeing a lot of them in the comments, like It’s Pat, Stuart Smalley, Superstar, and other worthy bombs.
Update II: How could I forget Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? Michael Medved called this a “cheeseburger of a movie”, made all the more true by the cheeseburger gazebo in which they perform. The Bee Gees as the Beatles, a character named Strawberry Fields as an excuse to sing — well, you know, and George Burns doing “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite”. Only Can’t Stop The Music managed to make this look pretty tolerable by comparison.
Also, I’m going to disqualify sequels and prequels, which rules out George Lucas’ ill-advised return to a galaxy far, far away.
Update III: Moe Lane says he can’t take this seriously until I include Batman and Robin. That breaks the “no sequels” rule, but I’ll make an exception for this stinker — which wasted enormous talent. A few commenters agree.